From Canada's capital city of Ottawa to the "Hit Recording Capital of the World" in Muscle Shoals, Alabama everything changed in 2018 for the fast-rising eclectic quartet of Canadian 'Americana-Rockers'. With a sound that's hard to peg, but familiar nonetheless, the band are commonly marked as having a 'fresh vibe - vintage sound', nostalgic yet entirely their own; touching on sounds where acts such as The Eagles, The Loving Spoonful, The Beatles and even the late Tom Petty left off. Their sound and style span decades from the clean, warm pop ballads of the early 1960's to the gritty rock of the mid 1970's modernized by the bands own musical era; alternative rock of the mid 1990's-early 2000's.
Established in late 2013, Tribe Royal is a refreshing take on classic sounds, paying tribute to their own roots and hitting the stage in overdrive with energy reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Comprised of the singer/song-writing partnership of Chris Kerwin & Terry O'Brien, two writer's moored in different, yet complimentary sounds and styles; solidified by the rhythmic tandem of Bram Al-Najjar & Matt Robillard, 'The Tribe' as they call themselves, has quickly grown from four members to the burgeoning international following they've begun to enjoy today. The band has toured across Canada several times, played hundreds of shows at some of the most notorious venues in the country and opened for established or rising artists in: Sam Roberts Band, Ocean Alley, Quiet Company, Red Wanting Blue and Neon Dreams, to name a few.
In December of 2017, Tribe Royal piqued the interest of esteemed Canadian Industry legend, Sandy Graham, who found familiarity yet also originality in the bands signature harmonies and their throw-back sound. Graham built a name for herself as one of the first female music directors in radio (CJFM & CJAD) and the first female to be hired as a promotion director (RCA/BMG), as owner of legendary Toronto venues “The Horseshoe Tavern” and “Route 66”, and by managing/touring artists such as Canadian Icon Bobby Curtola, the recipient of Canada’s first ‘Gold Record’. Graham was also responsible for booking acts like The Hollies, Heart, and Hall & Oates among many other notable artists into the Canadian music market. Under her direct management, Tribe Royal caught the interest of acclaimed American producer Norbert Putnam, who invited the band to record a few songs at The Nutthouse Studio in Muscle Shoals Alabama, with Grammy-winning engineer Jimmy Nutt.
For Tribe Royal, working with Norbert Putnam gave the band their first proverbial “break” in the music business. Putnam made his name as the original bassist in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section; an internationally renowned and legendary group of session players that gained rapid attention through instrumenting successive #1 Hits on Billboard in the early 1960’s. With his accreditation and support behind them, Tribe Royal began to receive larger, marquee bookings and garnered the interest of international representatives such as Peter Astedt, Senior Advisor to Live at Heart.
Upon returning to Canada, Tribe Royal set their sights on CMW 2018, where they were booked by Astedt for their first run of international performances at Live at Heart, in Orebro Sweden. Tribe Royal were welcomed by an enthusiastic Swedish audience that sang their songs back to them and helped nominate the guys as one of the top acts of the festival. As the momentum behind the band grew and the buzz about their live performances grew louder, they were booked in Sweden to attend Live at Heart, Newfoundland. This was to be the inaugural year for the Canadian edition of the Scandinavian festival featuring delegates from around the world.
Once again their journey to Muscle Shoals, (which also included a high-speed collision with a rogue deer that almost derailed the recording sessions entirely) paid off with Putnam’s name piquing the intrigue of Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bova, who was a delegate in attendance at Live at Heart, Newfoundland. Bova, who was familiar with Norbert’s accreditations, selected Tribe Royal as a one of four artists to participate in his song-writing workshop at the conference. This was an important opportunity for the band, primarily songwriters Terry O’Brien and Chris Kerwin, to have an engaged 1-on-1 with a highly diversified and accredited producer. After attending various conferences/workshops throughout the week the band finished the festival with a highlight performance at “Paddy’s Shed” that had them booked for Summerfest 2019 ‘The World’s Largest Music Festival’ in Milwaukee, USA.
The band needed several months after returning home to regroup and shift their focus to the development of new material for their upcoming LP release. It was during this time, in the depths of another Canadian winter, that they were selected to perform by the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) at Westway Lab Festival, in Guimaraes Portugal. CIMA extended the offer to Tribe Royal to participate in the artist residency at Westway Lab, which was a substantial achievement for the song-writing duo of Chris Kerwin & Terry O’Brien, as it was to be the first time Canadian artists would participate in the writer’s residency. Partnered with Venezuelan singer-songwriter Yosune Harreira, they set about creating a half hour of completely new, collaborative material to be performed and showcased at Westway Lab’s opening night. This was another substantial achievement as this was Tribe Royal’s first artistic collaboration, and it was international. As the residency came to a close, Terry and Chris were reunited with Bram Al-Najjar and Matt Robillard, who arrived for Tribe Royal’s official Westway performance at Centro Cultural Vila Flor.
In what was has become a satisfying new “normal” for the band; their venture to Portugal had them booked to perform at Canadian Music Week 2019 in Toronto Canada- a bench-mark Canadian booking that had eluded the band to date. It was at this time that the band began working with esteemed Canadian producer, Bill Hill (April Wine) in Montreal, Canada. Together they re-worked some of Tribe Royal’s most exciting live songs into their first single-release- a revamped and refurbished “My Kind of Girl”. This was Tribe’s first single release since their July 2018 double A-Side release, “Road to Muscle Shoals”, featuring “Holding On” and “Good to Me”. An engaged and raucous crowd at The Paddock Tavern helped secure another notable booking at Cashbox Canada’s sanctioned artist showcase at Morrison’s Irish Pub, in Cannes France at MIDEM ’19.
Upon returning from France, next in line was Summerfest, a booking they had secured earlier in the year at Live at Heart Newfoundland. This was the band’s first performance in the United States, and they enjoyed an engaged crowd of several thousand people. Performing in part of the festivals “Emerging Artist Series”, the band secured more than 70% of the popular vote in a twitter poll through fan engagement around the world. Winning the “Emerging Artist Series” further leveraged the band into the American market and has brought the band to the attention of several coveted agents and labels.
**Photos of Tribe Royal’s performance at Johnson Control’s Sound Stage are featured on their website homepage.
In August, Tribe Royal was invited to perform and participate as part of a multi-artist collaboration, set for national promotion by CDBaby Canada, at the YouTube Creator Studio in Toronto Canada. This collaboration featured artists from all across the country and will be released sometime in the autumn of 2019. More details to come.
Rounding out what has been an incredibly prolific year for these Americana-rockers, Tribe Royal returned to Sweden in September ’19 to perform at the 10th Anniversary of Live at Heart. They performed four consecutive nights in different venues across the city of Orebro, and enjoyed capacity crowds in the hundreds each night. Sweden has embraced Tribe Royal and their music, and has become one of their fastest-growing and most receptive audiences. Tack!
As 2019 comes to a close for Tribe Royal, the band has their sights set on a slot at Indie Week, in Toronto Canada in November and then to recording their long anticipated debut album throughout the winter. The band has already set their sights on pushing the envelope in 2020 with prospective tours through North America running through California, New York and across Canada, a main stage slot at Summerfest 2020, as well as European performances and tours in Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, the UK and Bulgaria. With so much more still to be announced, the fast-rising Tribe Royal handily proves that exhilarating diversity does still exist in contemporary rock.
You just need to know where to look.